Conformity in Adolescence

Adolescents tend to conform to their peer group for fear of being rejected. Learn more about conformity in adolescence in today's article.
Conformity in Adolescence

Last update: 11 October, 2021

Adolescence is a complicated stage for young people, as they go through many changes and they’re in full search of their identity. During this period, it’s common to notice a certain conformity in some adolescents, as they’re very vulnerable to pressure from their peer group. The final consequence is that they stop struggling to be themselves.

Fortunately, this attitude diminishes with the passing of time, as youth build their identity and become more autonomous. When they’re able to think and be themselves, they also manage to resist pressure from their peer group.

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

-John F. Kennedy-

What do we mean when we talk about conformity?

Teenagers hanging out in a bedroom drinking.

Conformism implies all those changes in the opinion or behavior of a person that occur as a result of the pressure exerted by others on them.

Sometimes, this pressure from the group isn’t entirely true, but it’s the adolescent himself who acts according to what they think the group thinks. In other cases, the pressure is real.

Friend groups are very important during this stage and help the children to build their identity. The problem arises when young people overconform or are overly dependent on their friends. This can have negative consequences for the development of their identity.

Why does conformity appear?

There can be several causes and, according to Solomon Asch, the most important are the following:

  • Thoughts of inferiority: Some young people believe that the group’s ideas are more valuable than theirs and also much more reliable. For this reason, children with low self-esteem tend to conform more easily than others and come to integrate those ideas or values as their own. Logically, personal factors and group characteristics also play a role here.
  • A need to belong: Many adolescents follow the opinions or ideas of the group just to gain acceptance, even if they don’t share the same opinion. The fear of being rejected leads them to conform publicly to the group, even if they don’t do so in private.
  • The type of attachment during childhood: Insecure attachment has been shown to make the child more prone to conformity in adolescence.

How can we help as parents?

Adolescence is a complicated stage and it’s very important to establish clear limits and rules from childhood. These must be appropriate for each age and with the corresponding consequences for non-compliance.

In line with this, we can help our children in the following ways:

  • Motivate your aspirations and dreams.
  • Avoid power struggles and allow them to experience the good or bad results of their actions themselves.
  • Maintain fluent communication and promote honest dialogue, without avoiding difficult topics.
  • Help our children to detect those situations of conformity to stop doing it and aspire to achieve their best version.
  • Work with them on the thoughts and beliefs that limit them.
  • Educate adolescents to promote self-confidence in order to ensure that they have good self-esteem and sufficient strength. This way, they can become uninfluenced adolescents and successful adults.
A mother talking with her teenage son.

Regarding conformity in adolescence

All people have the tendency to conform in order to be accepted by others and adolescents are no less.

Adolescence is a stage in which acceptance of the environment is essential and if this means that teens have to follow the thoughts or ideas of their peer group, they’ll do so despite not sharing them.

It’s important that we work with adolescents on all these aspects. We must make it clear to them that they have to be themselves and always strive to be their best version, without competing with anyone and only for their own satisfaction.

A boy or girl with good self-esteem will be less conformist and manipulable by their peer groups.

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